Boris Johnson backs Jewish festival

A major new showcase for Anglo-Jewish culture, based loosely on the Edinburgh Festival, is to be launched next spring with the backing of London’s City Hall.

The month-long Open Jewish Cultural Festival will provide a platform for Jewish performance from Britain and abroad, and will include some established events.

One option being considered by festival organisers is to open with Jewish Book Week and close with the formal opening of the new Jewish Museum at its new home in Camden.

Adrian Cohen, chairman of the London Jewish Forum, said: “We hope it will become the focal point of the Jewish cultural year. The festival is intended to bring Jewish culture to as wide an audience as possible and we’re hoping to have 50 events in four weeks, culminating in the opening of the museum.”

He said the festival had received a five-figure sum from the Greater London Authority, which will pay for its marketing. The intention is to bring a brand consultant in to help market the festival both here and abroad.

“We will not drain money from other Jewish events held at other times in the year because we will not be asking the community for any money,” said Mr Cohen. “We are talking to potential sponsors. The administration of the project has gone out to a bidding process and more details will be available soon. We’ve worked a long time to secure a project which reflects the cultural diversity of the community.”

However, Geraldine D’Amico, director of Jewish Book Week, said: “I have heard about this but no-one has spoken to me about it. If they want us to be the opening act, we will be happy to do so.

“We work with everyone in the community. Book Week is a big event and we rely on other organisations’ goodwill not to hold events at the same time as us because we are all pitching to the same people. We have 65 events during Book Week and we aim for a Jewish and non-Jewish audience. I hope there isn’t a clash.

“The thing I would be slightly worried about is to have this right after Book Week. We sold 13,000 tickets last year. I know the community is much bigger than that so I am sure enough people will be interested.”

So far, 15 organisations have joined the project, including the Jewish Community Centre and the London Jewish Cultural Centre.

Nick Viner, chief executive of the JCC, said: “My personal view is this is a chunk of money that has come onto the table. The mayor said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue with large events in Trafalgar Square as in the past. We said, let’s have something different.

“We wanted something that would represent the best of Jewish culture and that would be open to everybody right across London. We had Simcha on the Square, which was very successful in some ways because it attracted a lot of people in a public space. On the other hand, the organisers were having difficulty finding the funds and it was a one-off event. There were a range of views about whether it was really delivering the best the community could offer. This is much bigger and will have something for everyone.”

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “I am delighted to give my backing to this brand new festival of Jewish culture. Across all walks of life, Jewish men and women have been key players in London’s continuing success.

“The London Jewish Forum have come up with a brilliant idea in consultation with the various community groups they represent. Coinciding with the reopening of the Jewish Museum, it will give Londoners and tourists alike the chance to discover more about the fantastic variety of Jewish arts and culture that is out there.”

    Last updated: 4:04pm, November 19 2009